Chapter 30: Grit of Berth and Stone

We are excited to share the next installment of Grit of Berth and Stone by Lisa Dunn, the first book in the Chasmaria Chronicles. Follow along with us each week for new chapters!

If you’re new to this series, we recommend you start with chapter 1.

Banished for a foolish mistake, sixteen-year-old Grit scorns the loss of her home, her honor, and her only ally. Only the weak worry about such things.

Grit of Berth and Stone

First book of Chasmaria


<< Chapter 29 | Chapter 31 >>

“Bard was not completely honest, Dagger said as they left Harding the following morning.

“I’m surprised you tolerate deception in your favored poet,” Grit said. “I should think a poet, by nature, could sing only truth.”

Dagger snorted lightly. “It’s easy enough for poets to hear and to sing, but for the rest of us… For the rest of us, the song of the heart can be difficult to learn, let alone sing. There’s some comfort, of course, in knowing you never strive alone. Many have struggled before you, and many struggle alongside you. Take solace in that.”

He stole a glance at Grit, who rode beside him beneath the shade of ancient trees. “I see in your face you doubt me.”

“I hear in your tone you doubt yourself. Anyhow, I have no need of solace. I survived a year on my own without the consolation of others. Before that, I may as well have been on my own for all the kindness shown in Thresh.”

Concern softened Dagger’s angular features. “Has it been that bad? Has no one ever shown you mercy?”

“No one, and I’ve never asked for pity.” Grit spurred Shriven to a trot.

Even as she spoke the lie, she recognized it as such. Her leather pack bounced against her back, weighted with blankets from Sire Stone and Kinsmon, her Sire’s Aid, Ezekiel’s sewing kit, a brush from Scarlett, and the small wooden bowl Coil had filled with berries. The pack itself was a gift from Coil, who had spared her life in the tree, refused a share in Turf’s glory, and vowed to repay those who had shamed her. She glanced at her dagger, a gift from her dame upon her Twelfth Branding, and felt for the first time in her life reluctant to draw it. I hope it does not come to that. Grit pushed back images of Coil’s blood dripping from her blade.

Dagger slowed his horse at Shriven’s side. “Have you heard of Strike’s youth?”

“What of it?” Grit asked.

“Well…” Dagger winced. Clearly being conversational didn’t come as easily to him as to Scarlett. He gave Grit a strained smile. “There’s a story often told among Castle Concord’s warriors.”

Grit leveled her gaze at Dagger. “In that case, I’ve not heard it. Stories travel to Thresh even slower than music.”

Dagger’s expression hardened into something more familiar. “I thought I might tell it to you to pass the time, but perhaps you would prefer to remain ignorant of your enemy.”

“Do regale me.” Whatever Dagger’s story was, it had to be better than imagining Coil’s death.

“I thought you might like to hear it.” Dagger sat straighter in his saddle, a genuine smile on his face. He licked his lips and took a deep breath.

“Forty years ago, twins were born in the mountain village of Summit Colony. Fierce and violent tempered, the older lived by the will of his impulses; the younger demonstrated a more pensive nature. Even before they could sit up, the older twin would strike the younger, who bore his sibling’s assaults indifferently.”

Dagger spoke in a voice tender and distant, as if he’d memorized the story in his childhood. “As the boys grew, the younger became as able a fighter as the older, albeit with a style contrary to his older brother’s erratic blows. The younger twin was slow, sure, and when he didn’t hold back, close to lethal. Working together, they could thrash any who stood against them. They were accomplished combatants by the age of fifteen. Warriors placed wagers and offered bribes a full year prior to their test.”

“A full year?”

“A full year.”

“Unheard of. Go on.”

“When their test came, they traveled together to increase their chances of survival. They eluded their hunters the full sixteen days. On the last day, as they traveled the mountain path toward Summit Colony, they came upon a dameling whose lamb had slipped into a ditch and become entangled in a thorny shrub. Intending to steal the sheep and carry it into Summit Colony as a triumph feast, they scrambled to free the creature. When they regained the path, the older twin wanted to harm the dameling; the younger, seeing no gain in assaulting her, argued against this plan.”

“A waste of energy, assuming they’d secured the lamb,” Grit said. “It isn’t as though they could eat the dameling, and it would hardly add to their honor to capture a girl too weak and dumb to rescue her own lamb.”

Dagger raised an eyebrow. “Yes, well… To continue, their dispute became violent. While they wrestled one another, the lamb wandered away. Then, the dameling blew each twin a mocking kiss and retreated behind the mountain boulders. She disappeared, and the twins’ four hunters emerged from behind the rocks. The twins battled fiercely, but their hunters overpowered them and led them, bruised and bound, into Summit Colony.

“When the twins related their story, the council became uncomfortable at the mention of the dameling. They wished to interview her, but she couldn’t be found. A slaughtered lamb supported their tale, but the council decided against them, banishing them from Summit Colony.”

Grit turned to face Dagger, heat rising in her cheeks.

He hesitated. “Councils do not always rule justly.”

“I’d be the last to claim they do. Get on with your story.”

Dagger watched her a moment and then continued. “The twins traveled south and made it as far as a promontory three or four days past Thresh. There they stumbled into a clearing and found Kinsmon and a grand feast. He offered each a seat at his table, but they tried to bargain with him. The older twin in particular sought Kinsmon’s food on his own terms. He questioned its quality, offered a trade of a weapon for a plate, and dared to ask for a sample. Kinsmon warned against taking one bite, but each accepted that single bite. When the food touched his tongue, the older twin spat it out, cursed, and labeled his twin a fool to stand so long contemplating the bitterness of what he called poison. He stormed into the woods, swearing and kicking at shrubs.”

Grit yawned, feigning disinterest. “I suppose the younger twin remained to feast.”

“Wrong. The younger twin remained only long enough for Kinsmon to promise to feast with him another day. Then he fled into the woods to rejoin his twin. The older twin, however, refused to accept the younger, citing his hesitation as a grave weakness with which he would not associate himself. He disowned his twin, swearing to utterly destroy him in time.”

Grit turned in her saddle. “Why did he not destroy him then and there?”

Dagger flashed a smile. “Ah, that’s the question. What would possess a cruel man to postpone his treachery?”

“Distinction. What’s victory without an audience to observe one’s triumph? He’d have been a fool to return to the village that banished him, even with a mangled body, and no honor could be gained elsewhere. Who’d be impressed by one stranger’s victory over another? No, Dagger.” Grit shook her head, a proud smile on her face. “The older twin had to allow himself and his sibling time to establish reputations elsewhere. Waiting was his only choice if he wished more than the simple satisfaction of destroying the younger twin.”

“Perhaps you understand too well.” Dagger studied her with a curious expression. “But, yes, Strike preferred a cruel, well-planned destruction that would bring him widespread recognition. Now that he’s gathered an army and the support of Havoc, we may expect his full wrath to fall upon his twin.”

Grit let out a gruff laugh. “Well, then, let’s hope the younger twin, however slow he may be, has remained sure and lethal.”

Like what you read? 

Read chapter 31 now!


Get your copy of GRIT OF BERTH AND STONE

Book 1 in the CHASMARIA CHRONICLES by Lisa Dunn

About Lisa Dunn

As a child, Lisa Dunn fell asleep to her father’s fanciful bedtime tales and played with her own story ideas during the daylight hours. She now resides in a small southern town with her husband, four children, and a Great Dane who rarely leaves her side. Local librarians habitually thank her for their job security.

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